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Coach Jamal Virtually Operates Bronco Center During Pandemic--By Harshawn Ratanpal

For many of us, the last month has been riddled with fears of our family’s well being, despair over the doomed procession of hard-earned end-of-year events, and daily Zoom calls orchestrated in such a fashion that the video cuts off just enough to hide both the pajama bottoms and the bed head. At a time of such universal uncertainty, it can be hard to find constants that help guide us towards normalcy; after the flurry of this pandemic set us off course, who and where are the scarecrows, tinmen, and lions to help us navigate the yellow-brick road? For students on the path of college and career readiness, RB High’s College and Career Guidance Technician Jamal Felton plays the role of reliable sherpa despite these difficult times.

Felton, or Coach Jamal, has worked out of the Bronco Center since the start of the school year. Officially the College and Career Center, the Bronco Center primarily helps students in forging their post-graduation path. For students planning to attend college, Felton helps students find scholarships, facilitates college visits on campus, and attends college conferences to inform students on the best ways to achieve their post-secondary educational goals. Also, if a Bronco wants to get into the workforce, the Bronco Center can help students discover what they’re interested in, find jobs and internships, and devise a comprehensive career path for after high school. Additionally, the Bronco Center offers peer counseling to students who need extra help in their classes.

With RB High closing, many students might’ve been worse off as they lost access to the plethora of services the Bronco Center offers. Felton worked quickly to ensure that students wouldn’t be left out to dry.

“[The counseling staff] and other members of the administration met the Monday after we left, and we started to map out a plan of what the Bronco Center looks like in the virtual world,” Felton said.

With the help of student interns and peer counselors, Felton digitally adapted a list of scholarships for students to apply for. While some were accessible online before, the now-comprehensive list includes an indication of whether or not a scholarship is local and when the deadline is. Additionally, Felton is available for students to contact him with any questions they have or help they may need. This updated scholarship list and Felton’s contact information, including his email and work phone number, can be found here on the Bronco Center homepage.

With the imminent graduation of the 2020 class, Felton’s work to make scholarships easier to find will likely help many that are hoping to bring tuition costs down. Felton wants students to know that despite the dire consequences this pandemic might bring, he and the Bronco Center are still around to serve students.

“I like that the Bronco Center is a place where people felt like it was a safe space where they can get what they need,” Felton said. “It has become a connected part of the campus. So . . . I’ve done little videos that I’ve put out on Instagram to try to reach out to students to let them know, ‘Hey we’re still here. We’re still here for you. We miss you.’”

Going forward, Felton plans to bring even more functions of the Bronco Center to the virtual world. He plans to interview military recruiters so he can learn information for students hoping to enlist in the armed forces. He’s also planning to hold a webinar for underclassmen and their parents to help them start planning their future.

Because he is unsure how long school will be closed, Felton spends a lot of time adapting the functions of the Bronco Center to work in a virtual setting. He also hopes that these changes can be used to improve the lives of students once they return to campus.

“I think it’s prudent to be ready for anything and to have a plan in place to adapt everything that we do,” Felton said. “I think that when we do get back to school, a lot of the things that we’re doing right now will be things that we can and should carry over. They can streamline our process a little bit.”

I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge my own bias in this article. As a senior myself, I’d been searching for scholarships to make college less unaffordable when Felton reached out to me, a student whom he’d only talked to once, about a local scholarship opportunity following the school’s closure. He continued to help me through the application process, being nothing other than helpful and patient.

Felton has kept himself busy during this closure and continues to find ways to help RB High students with their futures. On a personal note, he said that staying at home was tough for him at first. He loves going to work, and he loves seeing Broncos every day. But by working his normal hours, helping students by answering questions they have now and creating resources for them to use later, he continues to be productive and a positive resource for students in need.

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